Hoosier voters approve tax hikes in 12 school referendums

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ANDERSON, Ind. — Indiana voters endorsed all 12 school referendums on Tuesday’s primary election ballot, including measures for property tax increases to boost funding for local school districts.

Tuesday’s results continue the state’s trend of school districts having better success at passing ballot initiatives than in the past. School referendums historically have an approval rate about 50 percent, but the pass rate over the last two years has been near 80 percent.

Avon Community Schools and Warren Township Schools were among the eight districts that sought operating referendums, which generate funds for daily expenses like salaries and academic programming. Four districts requested capital referendums, which fund construction projects and building maintenance. Anderson Community School Corp. and Goshen Community Schools asked for both referendums.

Districts have been running more sophisticated campaigns to generate support. The Yes4AvonSchools community group created a website where voters could learn about the referendum, sign up to help raise support for it and donate money. The site also sent out email reminders about the vote.

The district learned to reach out after an initiative failed in 2011, said Margaret Hoernemann, superintendent of Avon schools.

“We’ve been trimming and cutting for seven years,” Hoernemann said. “It was time to ask our community to step up and fill in the gaps where the state hasn’t been able to keep up.”

The district will get an extra $9.5 million a year through the 35-cent increase on every $100 of valuation. The funds will go toward hiring 50 teachers and reducing class sizes, Hoernemann said. The district would have had to cut about 18 positions if the measure was not approved.

Voters also approved Anderson’s $41 million facilities improvement plan, which will secure building entrances, put in new bleachers at a middle school and build an innovation center and field house at a high school.

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